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E-Rate Central News for the Week
June 22, 2015

Introduction

The E-Rate Central News for the Week is prepared by E-Rate Central. E-Rate Central specializes in providing consulting, compliance, and forms processing services to E-rate applicants. To learn more about our services, please contact us by phone (516-801-7804), fax (516-801-7814), or through our Contact Us Web form. Additional E-rate information is located on the E-Rate Central website.

Funding Status

Wave 6 for FY 2015 will be released on Friday, June 26th. Funding for FY 2015 is available for both Category 1 and Category 2 at all discount levels. Cumulative funding for FY 2015 through Wave 5 is $358 million.

Wave 57 for FY 2014 will be released Wednesday, June 24th. Funding for FY 2014 is available for Priority 1 services only. Priority 2 funding is being denied at all discount levels. Cumulative funding for FY 2014 is $2.22 billion.

E-Rate Updates and Reminders

E-Rate Productivity Center – One More Summer Tip for Applicants:

Two weeks ago, in its S&L News Brief of June 5, 2015, USAC listed a series of steps that applicants should take over the summer to stay current on E-rate and, more specifically, on the status of their pending applications. For the most part, these were tips that USAC has repeated annually about this time of the year.

Next month, however, USAC is expected to announce a new step – an online E-rate portal – that will become critical for FY 2016 and beyond for applicants, service providers, and consultants. The new portal – designated the “E-Rate Productivity Center” or “EPC” (pronounced “Epic”) – is still under development, but has been demoed at both service provider training sessions that USAC held earlier this month.

USAC will publicize the EPC portal once it’s released, but applicants should look for the announcement and make plans to customize their own entries as early as possible. There are several aspects of the portal that should be addressed up front, namely:

  1. The initial notification of an applicant’s portal, and access to it, will be given to the individual who signed and certified the applicant’s FY 2015 Form 471 application(s). If this is not the person with day-to-day E-rate responsibilities, the applicant may want to change (or add) the account manager information.
  2. USAC is expected to pre-load portal entries with applicant data it already has on file, but all this information should be carefully checked (and updated as necessary).
  3. Roughly coincident with the release of the portal, OMB is expected to approve a new version of the Form 470 for FY 2016. The new Form 470 will have to be filed through the portal. (Any applicant needing to file Form 470s now for FY 2016 should carefully review the S&L News Brief of June 12, 2015, particularly if bids are being sought for special fiber construction.)
  4. An applicant using a consultant and/or, in most cases, participating in a consortium will apparently have to proactively enable those relationships within its own portal.

Ultimately, the portal should be a labor saver for applicants, service providers, and consultants. Initially, however, it will require some customization best done as early as possible – preferably before school resumes in the fall.

Comments Due on Draft ESL for FY 2016:

Comments on the FCC’s Draft Eligible Services List (“ESL”) for FY 2016 are due this Monday, June 22nd (see our newsletter of May 25, 2015). Reply comments are due July 6th. To read comments as filed and posted, use the FCC’s search mechanism on its online Electronic Comment Filing System entering “13-184” in the “Proceeding Number” field and focusing on the entries labeled as “COMMENT” in the “Type of Filing” column.

Modernizing and Reforming Lifeline for Broadband:

The FCC will be seeking public comment on a series of proposals to modernize the Lifeline program to make residential broadband more affordable for low-income families. Lifeline is another of the four Universal Service services, as is E-rate, administered by the FCC and funded by a surcharge on interstate telecommunications revenues. The modernization is expected to extend monthly subsidies of $9.25, currently available for low-income families for landline or cellular telephone service, to broadband Internet access. One goal of the change is to provide more affordable student access to Internet services at home. The measure was adopted by the same 3:2 partisan vote that approved the E-Rate 2.0 changes in 2014.

USAC Fall Applicant Training:

As in recent years, USAC will hold eight regional one-day applicant training sessions this fall. Registration is now open and attendance is building rapidly. The full training schedule with registration links is as follows:

Washington, DC October 2 – available only on a waiting list basis
Tampa, FL October 8 – registration limited
Albuquerque, NM   October 13
Minneapolis, MN October 20
New Orleans, LA October 29 – available only on a waiting list basis
Los Angeles, CA November 5 – available only on a waiting list basis
Philadelphia, PA November 10 – registration limited
Portland, OR November 16

Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated June 19 – Summer Tips for Service Providers

The S&L News Brief of June 19, 2015, provides the following tips for service providers to make sure that they remain up-to-date with E-rate developments over the summer:

  1. Monitor the progress of any forms you submitted to USAC.
  2. Complete your activities related to billing customers and invoicing USAC for any remaining FY 2014 recurring services.
  3. Assist applicants with responses to PIA review questions if asked.
  4. Review USAC’s website for posted Form 470s (until the revised FY 2016 Form 470 becomes available, look for “FY 2015” Form 470s referencing FY 2016).
  5. Label and file program-related documents.
  6. Consider attending applicant training in the fall (see above schedule).

Service Providers should also be alert for an announcement from USAC concerning the E-Rate Productivity Center (“EPC”) portal discussed above.

Disclaimer: This newsletter may contain unofficial information on prospective E-rate developments and/or may reflect our own interpretations of E-rate practices and regulations. Such information is provided for planning and guidance purposes only. It is not meant, in any way, to supplant official announcements and instructions provided by either the SLD or the FCC.